05/06/2019, 18.33
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Card Ranjith calls for calm after Christians and Muslims clash in Negombo

Muslim properties were attacked yesterday. The police did not announce any arrests or injuries. Public schools reopened today but were deserted. For Christians, Sunday liturgy was in front of the TV. Some 600 foreigners have been expelled, including 200 Islamic clerics.

Colombo (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Card Malcolm Ranjith, archbishop of Colombo, is calling on his fellow Sri Lankans to remain calm, this after Christian and Muslim groups clashed yesterday in Negombo.

This is the first time that violence breaks out between members of the two religious communities, a sign of the tensions that reign in the country after the Easter Sunday attacks against three churches and three hotels in Colombo that left 257 people dead.

"I appeal to all Christians, Buddhists and Muslims to be patient, show restraint and ensure the peace we maintained after the Easter bombings," Card Malcolm Ranjith said on national television this morning.

Some videos posted online show Muslim-owned homes damaged in Negombo, windows shattered by stones, cars overturned. The police did not release any information about any arrests or injuries. The town, which is located north of the capital, is home to St Sebastian, one of three churches attacked.

As a result of the clashes, the authorities imposed a local curfew until 7am this morning, to avoid further violence. Sri Lanka's main international airport is located in the area, but police said there was no disruption to airport traffic. Elite Special Task Force commandos were deployed to patrol the streets.

Meanwhile, the country's public schools reopened today, after being closed as a result of the bombings. Catholic schools will however remain closed for the foreseeable future. Before reopening, the authorities carried out checks in all of the country’s 10,900 schools.

Despite reassurances, very few parents took their children to school today. At Royal College, only about 5 per cent of its 6,000 students were back in classes, a school official said.

Yesterday, churches stayed closed as well, whilst Card Ranjith celebrated the liturgy live on TV. He had initially announced the resumption of Masses but was forced to change his mind after receiving warnings from "reliable foreign sources".

Recently, the archbishop slammed the Sri Lankan government for failing to properly manage the emergency situation.

In connection with the investigations, Sri Lankan authorities announced the expulsion of 600 foreigners, including 200 Islamic clerics.

Home Affairs Minister Vajira Abeywardena said that the clerics had overstayed their visas. He did not elaborate about their country of origin, but police said many foreigners who overstayed their visas were from Bangladesh, India, Maldives and Pakistan.

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